Retrospective on French expressionist Jean Rustin

Since it opened around four years ago, the Frissiras Museum has stayed true to its objective and the discrimination of its founder, contemporary art collector Vlassis Frissiras. The museum has tried to support the principles of European painting, particularly of figure painting, by organizing large shows on European artists. The retrospective on the French expressionist Jean Rustin, which opened a few days ago, is in keeping with this concept. The exhibition is filled with images of the human figure, mostly in the nude. They are harsh and depressing images, painted in gray colors and depicting mental illness, existential angst and human desperation. Apparently the artist spent much of his time visiting psychiatric clinics in the early ’50s when he was commissioned to paint a mural for an asylum outside Paris. Interestingly, Rustin did not begin making figurative paintings until the late ’60s. Unlike most artists that move from figurative art to abstraction, Rustin went from an early abstract phase to full figuration. Compared to his later figurative works, those early abstract paintings burst with lively colors – vivid reds, strong yellows and pinks – and bustle with energy. His first nudes from the ’70s show deformed female bodies that border on the pornographic and the scatological. This pornographic, voyeuristic perspective continues in his later works from the ’90s. In many ways, the exhibition is a tribute to those people on the margins of society, to those who suffer from some kind of mental torment. It is a hard exhibition to view, yet is a comprehensive representation of the artist’s work. The exhibition is curated by Martha Halikia and is held in collaboration with the Jean Rustin Foundation in Belgium. Frissiras Museum (3 & 7 Monis Asteriou, Plaka, tel 210.331.6027) to January 7. Starting November 3, the museum will hold a seminar series on themes that run through late 19th century and 20th century art.